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Riddle And The Knight

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  352 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
In 1322, Sir John Mandeville left England on an extraordinary thirty-four year voyage. He returned and wrote a book claiming it was possible to circumnavigate the globe.

For centuries none doubted Sir John, and many regarded him, not Chaucer, as the father of English prose.

But in the nineteenth century, sceptics questioned his voyage and suspected that he never left Englan
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 1st 1998 by Allison & Busby LTD (first published 1996)
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Erik Graff
May 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mandeville fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: travel
You may have heard long ago about mediaeval European beliefs concerned cyclopes, monopedes and dog-faced men thought to inhabit the antipodes--or perhaps you recall references in the short fiction of Borges. In any case, the source for much of this was one Sir John Mandeville, an English adventurer of the 14th century whose account of travels to the East has had considerable impact on English letters and early European geography.

Little is known of Mandeville. Some have even doubted his existence
Alex Sarll
John Mandeville's 14th century account of his travels inspired Columbus, Frobisher and Ralegh, but as the world opened up, all those giants and dog-headed men saw him increasingly dismissed as a fraud who'd likely never got further than France. Milton sets out to prove otherwise...and oh joy, is it really 20 years now that non-fiction has been lumbered with the Personal Journey? Helped by being a travel journalist, Milton follows the trail through the Mediterranean and Middle East, offering such ...more
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Milton's first historical book. An account of his trail of Sir John Mandeville, whose Travels are widely believed to be wholly made up. Of Milton's books to date, this is the least interesting as far as I'm concerned. He is a good writer and spins a good tale from his evidence, but ultimately this was unrewarding. Samurai William and Nathaniel's Nutmeg bear little comparison with this early effort. Both are far superior to this and well worth reading. For the truly intrigued only I would say. Ma ...more
Mar 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sir John Mandeville was the basis for Baron Von Munchausen, due to his stories in his book.

Giles goes on a journey to some off the places as discribed in Mandevilles book, and finds enough evidence to suggest the he actually made it to the Holy land.

You really can go an find graffiti from the times of the Crusades, in some of the monasteries there.

The book opens with Giles visiting the cathedral in St Albans, and seeing a dedication to Sir John.
As I was working only 5 minutes away I went to have
Daniella Murynka
Jul 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Milton takes what could be a dry and academic subject -- following the religious pilgrimage of 14th cen. knight, Sir John Mandeville -- and turns out an incredible story. This is a good mystery, as Milton traces Sir John's footsteps and tests the knight's veracity against all forms of available evidence. When recounting his experiences at holy sites, Milton strikes a good balance between kindness and skepticism. It's true that this book has some structural awkwardness (is it a travelogue or not? ...more
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
In the 13th century, Sir John Mandeville wrote a book about his travels in the Middle East and Asia. He described fantastical creatures and strange human habits that he was witness to but was he just a fabulist. Milton sets off in Mandeville's footsteps to try and uncover the truth. This was quite amusing in parts and rather informative. At times, Milton is terribly British which is sort of endearing.
Feb 07, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Is this a travel book, or a history book? Its not clear if even the author knows. Milton follows in the footsteps of Sir John Mandeville, 14th century world traveller, or possibly charlatan. In fact, so little is known about Sir John that there is some doubt that he existed at all, so the footsteps are very faint and often seem a weak excuse to travel the middle east. But the result is OK and on a par with many similar "micro-histories" written by journalists.
David Brown
There’s nothing like a good historical mystery to get your teeth into and Giles Milton’s The Riddle and the Knight promised such a puzzle. Focussing on a famous historical figure from the 14th century, Milton’s narrative traces the same journey that John Mandeville made and looks to analyse whether anything in his famous Travels is authentic or just fabrication. I couldn’t wait to dip into the mystery so donned my Medieval attire and headed back to the first half of the 14th century.

Sir John Man
A bit of slow read compared to his other history books, but that may be because it is more of travel journal for Giles then covering Sir John Maudevile's Travels specifically. Ok Read.
Why did I buy this book? There is no room in the house for more books. Well, it was marked down to $5, and I know Giles Milton for a tenacious researcher (Nathaniel's Nutmeg is good!), and I needed something fresh to read, and I had a fuzzy idea I ought to know more about his subject Sir John Mandeville.

There is a galaxy of thoroughly unreliable medieval writers. Layman readers of history such as myself aren't much interested in the finer points of evaluating sources: we just want to know what h
Ahn Mur
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ahn by: Daniella Murynka
I'll admit that this took my a while to get through, due mostly to the incredible number of places and sights mentioned. I would read with one hand flipping pages, and the other scrolling through google searches. I was exposed to so many new destinations that I now want to see (ex. Cyprus) and sights that, quite likely, I won't ever get to see (ex. Palmyra in Syria). As a visual person, I almost wish this could have been a photo essay. (Or even to see doodles or drawings, as readers of Mandevill ...more
Kressel Housman
Sir John Mandeville is one of those mostly-forgotten figures of history, but this book, especially the epilogue, makes clear that he had a tremendous influence, not just in the medieval era in which he lived, but on the world as we know it today. His own book, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, was an international sensation in his time. Not only did later writers like Shakespeare and Milton “borrow” from his stories (no copyright laws back then), the tales of his travels inspired such explorer ...more
In the mid-14th century, a sensational manuscript began to circulate in Western Europe. The purported journal of an English knight, Sir John Mandeville, who had spent years travelling the world. His account contained detailed descriptions of the wonders of Asia, from Asia Minor and the Holy Land to the largely unknown lands of China, Java, and Sumatra. He described horrifying monsters, great treasures, and lost Christian empires in far-flung places.

It was a hoax, of course, cobbled together fro
Apr 26, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like travel narratives
This book had a very interesting subject but as the book wore on, I got the distinct feeling that perhaps this elusive Sir John Mandeville wasn't quite as important as the author was making him out to be. I also wondered at the relevance of the author's traveling to exotic locales in search of Sir John. The book was extremely interesting (and even amusing at points) with respects to the author's various travel escapades but the whole Sir John angle almost seemed unncessary. It was a nice little ...more
Tracy Terry
I have a bit of a like/dislike thing for this author in that some of his works I've really enjoyed (Samurai William), others (White Gold, Nathaniel's Nutmeg) not.

Falling into the latter category, for me the main problem with this book is it concentrates less on Sir Mandeville and more on Giles Milton as he follows in Mandeville's footsteps though stopping short of China and Indonesia. Then there is the matter of is it a travelogue OR is it a history book? A combination that can (and does) of cou
Oct 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is an interesting but curious mix of history, biography, travel writing, and journalism that entertains but does not quite fit comfortably or excel in any of these genres, written about a subject (a 14th-century travel writer whose existence, as well as some of his claimed journeys, is disputed) that intrigues, but does not enthral. Mandeville himself works as a peg on which Milton manages to hang a number of hats; and, while the extent of the author's research both in the library, and in t ...more
Sep 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I re-read this book this autumn, after letting it sit on my bookshelf for probably five years. I honestly couldn't remember if I liked it years ago or not. One night when I was bored, I got it out to see if I'd forgotten a great read the first time. Nope. It's not a great read, but it's a decent read, to be sure. The author's search for the true story behind a mysterious - possibly mythical - medieval explorer is an honorable one, and one that takes him to some fascinating locales and settings. ...more
Sue Perry
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard of the once-famous Medieval English knight Sir John Mandeville before I picked up this book. Nor did I know anything about 14th century Cyprus, Jerusalem, Damascus, the Sinai desert, India or China.

Who was Sir John Mandeville, and did he truly spend over 30 years exploring those places, as his unlikely travelogue implies?

Giles Milton travelled far and wide, ploughed through archaic texts, and interviewed reclusive and exotic characters in his efforts to answer these questions.
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This is a somewhat unsatisfying attempt to solve the "riddle" of John Mandeville's 'Travels' (wildly popular in the Medieval period) by journeying in Mandeville's footsteps in order to test the facts and anecdotes that he writes about. The historical sections of this book were fairly interesting, but the travel sections are steeped with Orientalist prejudices (at one point Milton describes the ancient city of Palmyra as the border between Roman "civilisation" and Persian "barbarism", which is bo ...more
Frank Roberts
Jun 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The author embarked on a quest to find the trail of one Sir John Mandeville, a 14th-century knight whose Travels were widely read all over Europe and were an inspiration to Christopher Columbus. Tracking down evidence that has survived the seven intervening centuries was no small task, but the author manages to find a few places of amazing continuity--especially in Istanbul and Sinai.

Part travelogue, part detective story, part history. The most enjoyable parts to me were the anecdotes of the au
Aug 21, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author sets out to find out whether Sir John Mandeville really did travel, as he claimed, for 34 years, visiting lands as far flung as Egypt, India, China and even Borneo.

Given the paucity of available evidence, it is not surprising that the final conclusion is somewhat iffy but the book itself is littered with interesting anecdotes about the regions Mandeville visited and the situation he would have encountered. Although in this regard, the more exotic half of his travels were more or less
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Giles Milton tries to solve the riddle of Sir John Mandeville with wit and lots and lots of research. In trying to follow the explorer's footsteps Milton shows us the then and now of the places Mandeville claimed to have visited. Talking to the people there now and searching into the archives to find traces of Mandeville and/ or the people he said to have seen.

I found this book a fabulous story of how research should be done and explained to the reading public.
Nov 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite an interesting book - a cross between a travel book and an historical biography. The story of Sir John Mandeville - a medieval traveller, who travelled as far as Java and Sumatra in the 14 century. He has been discredited since Victorian times, but his importance in earlier centuries was immense - eg his writings inspired Christopher Columbus. The travels of the author in the footsteps of Sir John were quite entertaining also.
May 14, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An interesting inquiry into whether Sir John Mandeville's travels could be true, in total or in part.
Sir John is "a long-forgotten knight who was once the most famous writer in medieval Europe."
The author attempts to follow his footsteps and learn how much of his writing is true, and how much may have been invented.
Very few images. More images could have been included and would have helped to provide more richness to the text.
Rupert Matthews
Oct 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, although it was not quite what I had been expecting. It is as much a travelogue by the writer as he visits places in Mandeville's book as it is a book about Mandeville and his book. Nevertheless, very interesting and thought provoking especially as the Middle East is in turmoil again.
Mar 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Medieval history + exotic modern day travel log... really interesting non-fiction about one journalist's research into Sir John Mandeville, an influential writer of the 1300's whose writings were discredited by the Victorians... he influenced Shakespeare, but academia ignores him today. Really entertaining and intersting.
Feb 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the medieval world
Shelves: non-fiction
An engrossing book about a long forgotten knight who was once the most famous writer in medieval Europe. His travels and adventures inspired Shakespeare, Milton and Keats but by the 19th century his adventurous claims were discredited. This book is about the quest to restore Mandeville (the knight) to his rightful place as it follows in the footsteps of his amazing adventures.
Victoria Jackson
Excellent, charts his travels through Constantinople, Cyprus etc, a lot of religious content. People doubt whether he actually went on these travels. He was called father of English Literature, not Chaucer, then villified by the Victorians. First part he is in the near Middle East, second part Far East - China.
Corey Edwards
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and often humorous look at one of England's almost forgotten early (1300's) "explorers" of the globe, now widely discredited as a fabricator. The author makes his own trek around the globe in search of the facts, if any, surrounding this mystery, wrapped in an enigma, and shrouded by the mists of time. Fun, edifying, thought provoking.
An amusing and simple enough book, in which the author visits some of the locations in Mandeville's The Travels, and tables various research to determine whether Mandeville really travelled there, or whether the book is made up, or plagiarised from other contemporary accounts.
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British writer and journalist Giles Milton was born in Buckinghamshire in 1966. He has contributed articles for most of the British national newspapers as well as many foreign publications, and specializes in the history of travel and exploration. In the course of his researches, he has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, Japan and the Far East, and the Americas.

Knowledgeable, insati
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